Thursday 10 August 2017

Theatre Review: Cat On A Hot Tin Roof at the Apollo Theatre

Cat on A Hot Tin Roof, Apollo Theatre, LondonDirected by: Benedict AndrewsStaring: Sienna Miller and Jack O'Connell

Review: This was another play that I know of, that I see on some level as a classic and that at the same time I don;t know enough about, so I was excited to go in 'blind' and experience it for the first time. I enjoyed the experience but it ended up being a play of two halves, with the first act dominating the second. 

The first thing that struck me here was Magda Willi's set. It was stripped back and minimalist with this beautiful gold facade that opened out into this almost dream like area that allowed moments to unfold, exaggerated in their own bubble, outside of the bubble that was created within the room itself. This minimalism gave it a timeless feel, and really drew the focus in on the characters and their movement. 

So you sit down, ready to jump into to what you think is going to be a gritty play, the lights come up and there is Jack O'Connell in the the buff. Not Kit Harrington I'm going to flash your my arse quickly. IN the Buff. I think about five people around me definitely gasped and many more leaned forward a bit. Savages! Disclaimer i'm pretty sure I changed posture at that point to make sure I was paying the play the proper attention it deserved. The thing for me when you have British accents playing American characters is the accent has to be right ( prime example of this is Mel B's Roxy Heart and Imelda Staunton's was spot on and consistent the other not so much, i'll leave it up to you to decide which you think was which) and so I place a greater emphasis. I had a moment when I thought Sienna's accent was what we might describe as a Parody accent, likewise when Jack started talking, but I quickly feel into these characterisations and they became the people so that that was their accent and I believed in them.  

Cat on A Hot Tin Roof follows couple Maggie and Brick over the course of one evening, back at their family home for Big Daddy's Birthday. The simplicity of this lets the play explore a lot of different topic of every day life from cracks in their relationship, to alcoholism, the role of family and patriarchy, the role of a woman in a family, even touching on bonds of friendship and homosexuality. 
It is very clear that Maggie and Bricks relationship has and is falling apart, being held together by the love that Maggie has for Brick. Sienna has presence and this works well for Maggie's character. It allows her to show a strong side of Maggie, this leading guiding force, a woman that has the sex appeal and the commitment to her man.She is playful with the role, and owns it well, slowing breaking down into the anger, but always consummate in her loyalty to Brick and their relationship. O'Connell's Brick does what it says on the tin. His character is more reserved, more blunt, with more angst addled by his addiction to alcohol. His tones are gruff and you feel the despondence reeking off him. In the first half you get just them, the highs and lows of their relationship played out in its raw form and this was beautiful. You were this fly on their wall and I could feel myself pushing with team Maggie. It was something that was relate-able. Here she was dominant, filling the silence with sound,pushing for a response, glossing over the cracks. She described herself as a Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, a phrase that seemed to be thrown around far too much in the text but one that fit aptly to her. She worked well in all the aspects of her emotions and whilst their interaction dominated the first half, her performance dominated the play. 

The second half brings in the family and explodes in more of a rag tag fragmented narrative, because more stories are now playing out and this creates a fragmentation that didn't click with me. First you get the family tropes, Big Daddy says it all in the name and Colm Meaney embodied this characterisation as with his wife Big Mama played by Lisa Palfrey. Mae is the traditional good southern wife with a plethora of children and Hayley Squires was a perfect fit for the role. You really feel the ideals of the man being the head of the house, the man having a responsibility to perform and to be strong. There is a level of protection around this, a glorification that gets broken down through the act. Big Mama was the perfect homely wife, and she was a character that stuck out with you, and that you responded most too. The problem I had here was the length, it was and felt longer than it needed to be, it dragged on and on, adding new layers, new situations becoming convoluted. Yes there was dramatics, but I stopped caring as such. I was here for sienna though, I wanted her to keep going, her presence brought me back and kept my interest going. 

It was a great visual spectacle that like a balloon fizzled out slowly with one last bang. 

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof is on at The Apollo Theatre on Shaftsbury Avenue until October 7th 


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